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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ringo Deathstarr - Pure Mood - Album Review + Live with Stargazer Lilies & Dead Leaf Echo

A new Ringo Deathstarr record is always reason to celebrate. Their fifth studio album, “Pure Mood” released on home turf Austin, Texas label The Reverberation Appreciation Society, (with manufacturing and distribution by The Orchard) deliver twelve brilliant tracks that are arguably their most cohesive effort yet.


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Opening track “Dream Again” pairs a simple strummed guitar chord progression with layers of angelic church choir voices from Alex. What’s interesting here are the “flat” (or possibly 4th note) harmonies she sings (with her layered self) on the repeated lyrical pass “a way you were – the way we were.” Immediately following is an even more appealing vocal sequence with the lyrics “eats you up all the things you love” that serve as an audio representation of the psychedelic dreamlike state.

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“Heavy Metal Suicide” is built around a riff that echoes the hybrid alterna-metal that made producer Butch Vig famous. Less the looser Nevermind era Nirvana grunge, this places much closer to the breakthrough first two Smashing Pumpkins albums. That RD have toured with and established something of a relationship with Mr. Corgan and his band, the only outstanding question would be if this track is the product of subliminal influence, or an intentional acknowledging homage. The classic dual vocals of Elliott and Alex alternate between whispery cool on verses and shouts of “I don’t mind if you don’t love me, it’s alright if you don’t miss me, I won’t cry if you won’t let me, but you won’t know unless you try” on the chorus. The rubbery downbeat accent riff that punctuates throughout the song and ends it is the ultimate heavy headbang moment.


“Stare At The Sun” – Pairs a purposeful marching bass guitar pattern with industrial metallic clang percussion, as guitar static textures rise within the mix. Verses are delivered by Alex in a measured cadence that walks the line between sung and spoken. “Run - around - we need - to use it - let - it drip - but don't - abuse it - Ruff – enough - to make - it submit - run - around - you know - we can't quit - tear - it up - it does-n't matter - when - your mind - is a – disaster – hap-piness - can make - you sadder - when - you're stuck - inside - the pattern.” The chorus hits big with chiming guitars and percussive drum pattern reminiscent of early 90’s loops in songs like Chapterhouse’s “Mesmerize.” “Turn back to pieces when I saw you” becomes both a single line chorus and central vocal hook.







The sound becomes more stripped down on the second verse as the lines “Take – your car – and drive – it nowhere – turn – me off – you know – I don’t care” are sung in an even more clipped cadence. “Met - your friend - he's such - a cancer – touch - me when - you know - I'm not there.  Guitar textures behind that create a unique ambient progression with metallic scraping strings effects. The next lyrical sequence that goes “how - do you - know when - you're finished? - does - it feel - good to - diminish? - blow - it up - just to – replenish – dream-ers just - a stu-pid cynic” features a slightly warped audio texture underneath, in what has become something of a signature sound for this band. It’s not till deeper in does the song title come into focus, with the final statement – “your smile is a kind of torture - if you want something nice to look at - - stare at the sun and never turn back.”


Shimmering, flanged guitars introduce “Show Me The Truth Of Your Love.” Although primarily an Elliott vocal performance – with sincere romantic lines like “I want it all,” “I need to know,” “make me a vessel” and “I feel so special” – there is ample use of Alex’s softer, feminine counterpoint throughout. Overall the track gives off the feel of something The Cocteau Twins could have done. That is until a surprising and somewhat odd cinematic coda closes out the track, with an initial dreamlike buildup ultimately having some random Spanish music immersed within it.


The lyrically heavy “Big Bopper” serves as one of those songs where personal favorite pop culture, zeitgeist moments in both music and film are rapidly listed. Similar to R.E.M.’s "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” (although sounding nothing like either). Classic hybrid Alex-Elliott vocals with pitch-bend guitar support deliver the first verse: “Curtain with nothin behind it, Didn't lose a thing but I'm gonna find it, The tape is cued up but I'm tryna rewind it, Stuck outside but locked inside it, I've got a bad attitude, I'm tired of everyone in my crew, Waiting around for Hüsker Dü, To get back together and play some tunes” A centralized heavy chorus hook that goes “Bad trip - Someone tell her - Don't make deals with - the creep in the cellar” (played three times throughout the song) keeps the tracks overall wordiness sufficiently anchored. “You can't stop the cretins from hoppin” (first of two Ramones references).


“Died on a plane with the Big Bopper” (alluding to one of the worst airline tragedies in rock history, and obviously the song title. Was it just random to call the song this, or is there some deeper meaning?) The next lines “I saw your mom she's off her Rocker. I know a way to earn a dollar” seem simple throwaways that work out because they rhyme. However the following “I need a ride to the other side. Tripped on a sun beam, blew my mind. Close your eyes and try to drive blind” suggest self-discovery through the psychedelic experience. However, that segments closing line “feels like I'm going through an Eventide is something only those familiar with sound effects processors would get.


The musicians, songs, films and actors specifically listed in the final segment crosses more than a few decades, yet reflect things that most-likely only a Generation Y/Millennial would combine. “Walk me home Joey Ramone, Andy Wood, Motherlovebone, My Girl, Good Son, Home Alone Jeremy, Daughter, Even Flow, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Heaven's Gate was really a bummer, Neve Campbell and Liv Tyler, Oasis, Tony Blair, and Blur”



One of the first tracks initially released from the album, “Guilt” combines high production values with a looser, jammy drum track. Alex’s vocals layer the lyrics “Guilty/ it seeps through the ceiling/ a sinking feeling/ I'm kneeling” in a floating, overlay sequence, while drummer Daniel rips snare rolls, roughing up the sweetness. “Don't you see the colors are bleeding?/ your touch is misleading/ I'm pleading” (more mad drum fills). “Have you ever felt the prying?/ when nothings exciting/ stop trying.” Like many of the songs on here, the chorus is a simple phrase – “dumb angel.” The guitars throttle in hard downward strokes as drum rolls bridge between. What follows is a particularly snakelike guitar solo that shares a measured, professional quality to it. Inside liner notes credit “special guitar” to Jeff Schroeder (appearing courtesy of Gene Simmons) – an inside joke for sure as Jeff is the current Smashing Pumpkins lead guitarist, and has been since 2007.


Pumpkins friendships aside, the verses on this track shares a closer sonic lineage to female-voice-and-guitar-blend-wash 90’s UK band LUSH. Who coincidentally have reunited and are currently touring again after a 20 year hiatus. The concluding lyrics: “perfect/ a gift worth receiving/ now I'm believing/ I need it/ swallow/ your ideas are borrowed/ you fake all your sorrow/ you're hollow/ don't you love when everything's ending?/ and you're still pretending you're living?” You can listen to this song (where I first covered it back in November 2015) here:


Continuing the sugary-buzz female-male blend vocals is the curiously titled “California Car Collection.” Isn’t that something rich people like Jay Leno or Reggie Jackson are known for?

“I am waving goodbye” is the initial vocal refrain, supported by abundant synth and/or sample keyboard pads. Soon the mantra of “I waste away” takes over and is repeated over fuzzy guitar chords. Second pass through adds a bass guitar pattern providing unexpected circuitous motion. From the midway point until the end of the song’s three and a half minutes, it remains entirely instrumental.


Raw bass guitar notes introduce frequent live show favorite “Frisbee,” just before the full-on pitch-bend guitars and syncopated drumming arrive with force. “Free Your Head” is the alleged repeated lyrical refrain, although with so many of this bands repeated lines, they tend to float like amoebas. That is to say that with studio processing and layering, certain words or phrases take on an indefinite, changeable shape. However, the clearly enunciated Elliott vocals “Well I don't know if I'm wrong - I'd say I'm sorry but it's been too long - I don't feel it like I should - I guess it's bad that I think that's good,” leave little doubt as to the intended message.

The second verse (repeated as the third too) continues this theme with the words “I'm the same I've always been -But you still cling to my old skin -It's a feeling you can't shed - Don't expect to understand,” all while Daniel is free to cut loose with drum fills that make it all sound so lively. The subsequent guitar solo practically explodes out in an uplifting burst of elongated, sustained notes.


Heading into “deeper” tracks now, “Boys In Heat” has also been included in live shows over the last few months. Hyper-quick strummed bee-buzz guitars power over top of steady driving bass and drums. What distinguishes the track early (and repeated throughout) is the every 4 bar 1-2, 1-2 drum punctuation. “Having fuuuuuunnn – in the summer sun” give early indication as to which “heat” the song title refers to. Deep tom drum fills on the first change (and throughout) makes for a tasty headphone listening experience. So too for the bass guitar driven extended trippy instrumental break.


Also spotted on a written live show set list (a rarity in itself) is even deeper track “Never.” Emerging instantly at breakneck speed, the “deathstarr” is on full throttle until everything stops momentarily for quick, blended Elliott and Alex vocal statements. With the basic sentiment being “never should have let you in, and never let you screw me down again,” its lesson learned and not to be repeated. Another toms throttling, bass guitar rumbling change section delights as Elliott declares (with winking musical nod to a certain Scottish band who were an early influence) “I was on the chain – never had a brain.” The audio “argument” attached to the end is nothing short of hilarious. “You find yourself a place to work, girl!”


There’s a distinct “smooth soul” vibe to second-to-the-last-track “Old Again.” Opulent background vocals provide much of this sentiment, while a lively structured bass pattern anchors from within. Repeated lyrical refrain “feel old again” points out this sentiment can be experienced at any age. Verse two and three add shards of guitar driven “jet engine” sonics, keeping everything very much in the “noise rock” realm. A final tacked on coda of unadorned plunking guitar serves as a musical easter egg nugget for those who listened this far.


Final cut “Acid Tongue” closes out the album at breakneck pace with a nod to that classic Swervedriver sound. Speedy bassline and bendy-warped guitars power along under Elliott’s vocals. A hard heavy metal bridge segues into telling lyrics “don’t need a gun, but I got one – feeling dumb – like someone” with the final repeated phrase “and I was wrong.”

The album can be also gotten in the UK and the rest of Europe via their long time relationship with Club AC30, and in Japan via Vinyl Junkie.


Ringo Deathstarr headlined a triumphant return to New York performance at popular Brooklyn venue Baby's All Right on April 3rd.  All of the band live shots here are from that show.


Almost a month prior to that, they embarked on whirlwind European tour with shows nearly every night in different cities.  A safe holding place for their US touring vehicle was needed.


T-shirts, CD's and Love - are really all you need.

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"Good evening, Angels"


A gift from Piazzale Falcone E Borsellino Pesaro Italy


Fun times.  The Best times.

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Just prior to that evening's headliners, ambient dreampop purveyors The Stargazer Lilies delivered their own exciting live performance.


Having perfected creating spacious, dreamy sonic landscapes. theirs is a sound that continues to grow and evolve.


Innovative forces John Cep and Kim Field present enhanced studio recordings via effects-heavy guitars and sugar sweet angelic vocals respectively.


Impressionistic colors blurred across a windswept sky.


Technology may make the creation possible . . .


. . . but the artistic emotions behind it all are why it actually matters.

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Just a few weeks prior to this evenings performance saw them out in Austin, Texas for the SXSW festival with Cromwell coverage in The Deli Magazine Print Issue for that event.

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The band will release their latest album, "Door to the Sun" on June 3 via Graveface Records.



First single “When With You” can be heard (and viewed) via the below video.  Filmed and directed by LG from Dead Leaf Echo at Aloft photo studio in New York City, with editing by John Cep.




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Speaking of Dead Leaf Echo - they too played on this evening, opening the show with their own brilliant set.


Having last covered one of their shows here, the overall changing dynamic first noticed on that night seemed more clearly defined.


The current four piece until has been together for quite a while now (maybe longer than any of the prior lineups) and it shows in the confident execution of their material.


A full room at Baby's All Right drank in the waves of sound (with an emphasis on newer material) throughout their set.


Guitars now dominate what once was (at times) a keyboards heavy, electronic pulse driven sound.


The weeks following this show saw the band head out on their first European tour.


Their social networks kept a nightly stream of info and updates about those shows, indicating a rewarding experience and successful endeavor.

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Brand new Dead Leaf Echo music has now been announced as a 7" split single "child.glass.heart" is set to be released May 13 on Moon Sound Records.  On the flip side is the track "Dirty Minds" by complimentary darkwave act The Harrow.  A full release party will be at Sunnyvale Brooklyn on May 14.

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